Johnny Ramsey has cleaned up a bunch of junk. Truckloads of junk. But nowhere near all of the piled-up wood and bricks, tires and metal and other junk in his yard, junk that landed the 79-year-old Korean War veteran in jail.
Ramsey – who spent last weekend in jail for too not cleaning up the junk on his property after a judge ordered him to – could find out today if hauling away some junk, with the promise to keep plugging, is enough to keep him from spending another weekend locked up.
“I worked like a snake out here,” Ramsey said Wednesday. “I’m tired. My knees are swole up. It is a lot to do. But I’m a doin’ what they told me I had to so I, hopefully, don’t have to go back to jail.”
Clover Town Judge Melvin Howell sentenced Ramsey Oct. 4 to 30 days in jail to be served on weekends. He told Ramsey and town officials then that he wanted an update from both sides this week on any progress before considering any change in the sentence.
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Back in January, Ramsey was given six months to clean up after being convicted in a jury trial of keeping too much junk in his yard in violation of town law. Howell gave Ramsey another extension in August, but Ramsey did not remove the junk, so the judge ordered him jailed last weekend.
Ramsey, disabled after serving in the Korean war, lives with his wife in a mobile home in Clover on $898 a month in Social Security and veteran’s benefits. He collected much of the junk to sell to pay his utility bill and for his wife’s medications.
But that was before three days in jail.
Joe Funderburk, Clover’s code enforcement officer, said Wednesday he expects to talk with Howell today about the progress of Ramsey’s cleanup efforts. Funderburk said he took pictures of at least two loads of junk, mostly wood, that Ramsey and others removed from his side and back yards this week.
Ramsey’s lawyer, York County assistant public defender Toni Johnson, said Wednesday she planned to speak to Howell by today about Ramsey’s efforts to clean up and his plans to comply with the court order.
Whether Ramsey goes back to jail this weekend is entirely up to Howell.
Ramsey’s defiance over principle and property rights, and his subsequent jail stretch with more looming, has sparked an outcry as some claim Clover is far too zealous in its prosecution of an old man over a junky yard.
Clover officials point out that Ramsey has had more than a year and half to work on the problem and refused to comply, even when the city offered to haul all the junk away.
The volunteer who built Ramsey a privacy fence last week in an attempt to keep Ramsey out of jail contacted Clover officials Wednesday, vowing to take out a trailer-load of junk before the weekend.
“Johnny Ramsey has started cleaning up,” said Terry Byrd, a member of Rock Hill’s Elevation Church who read about Ramsey’s plight in The Herald and offered to help. “There has been progress made and more will come.”
The three nights in jail took a toll on Ramsey.
“I was ready to go to jail, I went to jail, but I am trying to not go back to jail,” Ramsey said Wednesday.
Since his time in jail, family, friends and strangers have urged Ramsey to comply and have helped him with the work. His son, Ricky Ramsey, took two days off from work without pay to help his father haul junk to the curb. Another son is in Afghanistan with the Army National Guard, on his fourth deployment to war.
“My daddy doesn’t belong in jail,” Ricky Ramsey said Wednesday. “We are out here working. I took time off to make sure this gets worked on. My daddy is making an effort. Nobody can say he’s not.”